Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: Going Cold Turkey

It's Thanksgiving, but not for Thomas. Thanks to his addiction, he is homeless, without family, who would otherwise be at a table around a warm meal. Tonight, Thomas sits under an overpass with his last rock. Then, out of nowhere, Thomas smashes his fix with his heel, determined that next year will be different. He will get his life back.

Going Cold Turkey - an event when someone declares their independence from a substance or an addictive element, usually by destroying or throwing away the addictive element. Side effects include withdrawals, erratic behaviors and (in rare cases), self imprisonment. As opposed to real abstinence from an addictive element, in fiction, this is a relatively short- lived period, and the character usually ends up for the better. This is easier said than done.

There's even a 70's movie completely themed by this trope, noted by the poster for this post. It's hard to go wrong when Dick van Dyke is involved!

This trope has been used in a variety of ways with many common (and completely unthought of) elements that a character may deem destructive to themselves. If you know Eddie Dean's story, a man stuck on heroin from Stephen King's famous Dark Tower series, then you know how that worked out for him.

It's not always easy for a character to choose to Go Cold Turkey. Sometimes they are in a position where the element is not availible, as was the case with Charlie from Lost, also a heroin addict. Even when the stuff crashed on the island, he was able to keep away from it.

Ain't that right, Charlie? ... Charlie?

Don't do it, Charlie! 

This trope gets a bad rep for its use with drugs, but people can be addicted to and Go Cold Turkey from anything ... even pancakes!

"Eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat ..."

And then you have folks like my grandfather Powers, who smoked, and went Cold Turkey well before I was born. And then there's me, who had a bit of a gaming addiction that my wife patiently helped me bring to an end (yet another reason to love her). Believe me, it's hard, especially when this is about to come out soon (be strong!).

We're seeing forced Cold Turkey now as folks across the country suffer from Twinkie Withdrawals. Yeah, the Hostess company closed. Good thing I grabbed a few boxes before the official announcement went out (did I say that out loud? *hides boxes*), but you know, sometimes it's for the best. Sure, Cold Turkey is hard, and that makes for an interesting character struggle, and deep inside, we all want that character to win, but we'll still come to love him if he fails.

Ever had your character Go Cold Turkey? Have you? Is there someone you know who did this and succeeded/working on it?

I'm David, and I picked the wrong week to quit eating crullers!


  1. No characters, but I might hit withdrawals if I went cold turkey on Hot Tamales.

  2. The good news I read yesterday is that Hostess is going into mediation and so might not go out of business after all. Obese people of America rejoice!

    1. I should have grabbed more. Have you seen what they're going for on eBay? $30+ a box. Wow! :)

  3. Love the timing on this trope. I can't think of my characters doing it, though. I wonder why they call it 'cold turkey'.

  4. I was worried about the Ding Dongs and Ho-Ho's LOL I can't do cold turkey. I end up going a week or two, then blammo. It's all over.

  5. Is that Clarrissa (Explains it All)? Please tell me that's Clarrissa.

    This is a great thing to think about for my now defunct NaNo project which will probably have to wait until December. (Go NaNo dropouts!)

  6. This one has never even occurred to me, but now I see it's usefulness. Love it once again :)

    And Shelly, that's Sabrina! Why are you not up to date on your 90's icons? lol :)

  7. Perfect post for this week, although I perfer my turkey warm. Nope, none of my characters go cold turkey. Maybe because I could never do it :)

  8. "Looper" had JGL going cold turkey off of drugs. What a disturbing film.

  9. Love the examples you gave! Hmm, I recently went cold-turkey off gluten and this coming from the Mama that makes homemade bread and grinds her own wheat. It is very sad, but I feel better, so at least I can see results. I was actually thinking of using this idea to kill off a character--did you know that people can die from gluten, as in anaphylactic shock? Yep. Now that would be an easy way to "poison" someone, right?

  10. I like this trope! Going cold turkey on pancakes would be hard, though. And I kind of want a Twinkie right now...

  11. I'm working on a short film right now about going cold turkey. Based on a nightmare I had some years back. And I'm with you on the game addiction, and my wonderful wife has been an amazing influence on me for the better.

  12. I have a cold turkey addiction. I go col turkey on everything I'm addicted to so I'm going warm chicken.

  13. I wish I could go cold turkey from food . . . especially this time of year.

  14. Hahaha! I totally remember that Sabrina episode! Too funny...

    I've gone cold Turkey off of Gluten... it was *really* hard for the first week... I swear I was starving ALL THE TIME...

  15. Going cold turkey...hmmm...not a character trope I've used yet. But it's certainly a good one that addicts of any sort can relate to - ahem - me, food addict :-) But I think I'll stick with warm turkey please.

  16. My Dad used to smoke and he quit too, cold turkey. My cat used to love Twinkies but he's dead now so I guess he quit cold turkey too. :P

    Have a Happy Thanks Giving! This year I'm quitting cold turkey, cold turkey and eating chicken instead. (;

  17. Love that scene out of Airplane!

    I'm not a Twinkie person. In fact, I don't think I've ever eaten a Hostess product. Out here in Pennsylvania, we have the Tastykake company, and they supply all our cupcake, krimpet, and coffee cake needs!

  18. i have an avid fan problem, i try to go cold turkey from yelling at my kids' games (mostly encouragement, but i'm too loud)

    i like this trope. it can be a good thing!

  19. Made the decision a long time ago not to join the ranks of the obese in the United States, so I haven't had a ding dong, twinkie, or hostess cake since high school.

    Now if I had to quit starbucks cold turkey, well then we'd have a major problem.

    Great post, David. You truly come up with some great ones.